A California jury awarded $8.3 million last month to a former prison guard who accused Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy Orthopaedics subsidiary of knowingly marketing a faulty hip implant that was later recalled. Jurors found that the ASR XL implant was defectively designed and caused metal poisoning and other health problems suffered by Loren Kransky after he underwent surgery in 2007. But the jurors rejected the 65-year-old Plaintiff’s claim that DePuy failed to adequately warn of the risks associated with the implant, and it didn’t find the company acted with malice, prohibiting him from collecting any punitive damages.
The fraud and negligence suit is the first of nearly 11,000 similar cases involving an all-metal ball-and-socket hip joint that was pulled from the market two years ago to reach trial in the United States. Others, like the Plaintiff Kransky case, contended the implants have left them with crippling injuries or in need of other replacement surgeries. Johnson & Johnson has set aside about $1 billion to cover costs of the recall and lawsuits. The injuries in these cases are real and very serious. The companies selling these products, Johnson & Johnson and DePuy, will have to pay significant money for their mistakes. Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal the verdict in this case.
During the trial, jurors were told that black pieces of metal flaked off the implant and caused a type of poisoning that could have killed the Plaintiff if the material had not been removed. One of Plaintiff’s lawyers told the jurors during closing arguments that the company “knew this hip was defective long before Mr. Kransky got it” and that “they (Johnson & Johnson) wanted to play Russian roulette with patients. This Defendant didn’t care about patient safety.” The Defense lawyers denied the Plaintiff’s claims and argued that he had a host of pre-existing health ailments and that the hip implant didn’t make him worse.
As we have reported, the hip joint was sold for eight years to more than 90,000 people worldwide. Johnson & Johnson stopped making the product in 2009 and recalled it the next year. The artificial part is meant to replace deteriorated joints causing severe pain and limiting mobility, and is generally expected to last ten to 20 years. With the DePuy hip implant, one in eight patients needed theirs replaced within five years. That’s a very bad track record by any standards.
The implant, the Articular Surface Replacement, known as the A.S.R., is a metal-on-metal device that was recalled by the Defendants in 2010. It was first sold in 2003 outside of the U.S. and began being sold here in 2005. The design of the A.S.R. causes the metal ball to strike the metal cup causing fretting or the shedding of metal debris as the two metal surfaces rub against the other. The metal debris could then contaminate local tissue and bone and, eventually, enter the blood stream causing metallosis, or heavy metal poisoning. The jury found that the design of the A.S.R. was, in fact, defective.
While J&J knew about the problems in 2008, the company has denied it. It should be noted that Johnson & Johnson, the world’s biggest provider of health care products, has issued more than 30 product recalls since 2009. Most have involved non-prescription medicines such as adult and children’s Tylenol and Motrin, but other recalls were for prescription drugs for conditions such as epilepsy or for contact lenses. John Gomez, Brian Parrish and Mike Kelly were the lead lawyers in this case for the Plaintiff. They had tremendous help from their support staff. All did a very good job for their client in the case.
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